Guide to Managing the Urge to Hoard Stuff

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Today’s guest article comes from Sophia Perry, with a cross-industry look at certain lifestyle pressures of COVID-19 and 2020; along with the basic health needs that come with lifestyle changes which can be thusly addressed by Physical Therapy.

Hoarding is one of those terms that is often thrown around. It is similar to using the term OCD to describe certain idiosyncrasies. Hoarding and hoarder are used for anyone with even a mild penchant for collecting things or not de-cluttering often enough.

For the record, a person with an actual hoarding disorder is someone who acquires an exorbitant amount of items and stores them haphazardly. This usually creates a volume of clutter that is difficult to manage in more ways than one. It can pose a serious issue for the person as well as the people around them, in both emotional and physical terms.

The difference between these two ‘versions’ of hoarding is stark. They should, therefore, be dealt with in different ways. While this guide to managing the urge to hoard stuff can point you towards the way of living more simply, an actual hoarding disorder is usually treated through cognitive behavioral therapy.

How does hoarding negatively affect someone’s life?

If you suspect yourself or someone close to you of having a hoarding disorder, you are probably aware of the negative effects it can have on your life. The sheer volume of one’s belongings acts as a burden both for the hoarder and the people around them. The effects can present themselves in many different ways.

For the most part, hoarding is detrimental for a person’s mental health. Besides feeling intense anxiety and distress over parting with your items, you can also feel overwhelmed by shame over your possessions. It is also known to trigger obsessive thoughts and actions regarding your belongings.

The physical implications of hoarding shouldn’t be minimized either. After all, they do trigger everything else. Not only does extensive hoarding cause the loss of living space, but it also poses a health hazard. The inability to freely move around your living space doesn’t only lead towards stubbing your toe from time to time. Shuffling hoarded materials, often to make room for more stuff, can lead to serious injuries. These will not only make it hard for you to move for days on end, but could also require hours upon hours of physical therapy.

Very often, getting seriously injured, be it your back or falling down under the weight of the boxes of old magazines and hurting your head, will be the wake-up call you needed to start therapy. An injury such as a broken arm or a dislocated shoulder will require a long period of recuperation and work with a physical therapist. This can be quite sobering. Getting injured could be the final straw that forces you to seek help.

7 quick tips to control clutter and stop hoarding

On the other hand, it is not only people with a hoarding disorder that become slaves to their belongings. In our consumerist society, most people would do well to de-clutter from time to time. This can be of particular importance in the times of a pandemic like what we are currently living through. Now that it’s exceedingly important to keep things clean and orderly, dealing with our hoarding leanings would be a good way to do that.


  • A blank slate


It is much harder to hoard things when your space is organized. Decluttering will definitely make you think twice about what you bring in next. A good way to declutter is to make three piles – keep, give and throw away. This is a great project to do while in quarantine. You’ll get rid of items you don’t need and create a safer and more organized space for yourself. 

However, if you are uncertain about some things or are finding it difficult to part with them, renting a storage is a reasonable solution. You can store those items there for a limited amount of time. Then you’ll see if you really needed them once that time is up. 

You should be careful throughout this process, though. If you are planning to store anything heavier than a couple of boxes, make sure you get help the same way you would if you were moving. Something as simple as moving a couch out of the way could cause you to throw your back out indefinitely. It is much better to find help in advance instead of scramming to find a physical therapist to help you in the midst of a pandemic after the fact.


  • Give yourself a break


One of the main ways of managing the urge to hoard stuff is to be kind to yourself. While you want to impose some limits on yourself and try for different behavior, no good change happens overnight. For many people, it would cause them anxiety and regret if they combed through their belongings and got rid of a certain amount. As long as you are striving for a healthy lifestyle change, you will be making it in small but meaningful ways. Finally, living through the coronavirus pandemic is already stressful enough.


  • Handle only once


One of the 7 quick tips to control clutter and stop hoarding is never to use the words “for now”. Once you decide to keep something, find a place for it right away. Your space will be more organized which will reduce your chances of hurting yourself simply by existing in your home.

The OHIO (only handle it once) principle is particularly useful if you are packing for a move. Most moving companies like IPS NYC Movers NYC charge their clients based on how many items they have. So curbing the urge to hoard can actually save you money on a move.


  • Reduce spending


This part might be the most straightforward tip for managing the urge to hoard stuff, but also the hardest. We have all fallen victim to retail therapy at least once. Finding other ways to feel in control or soothe our frustrations would be beneficial in many different ways. For one, you will save money. In addition, deciding to limit our spending will curb the urge to hoard stuff. Just by not putting yourself in a position of having the option to buy something, you will be less likely to get something you do not need. 


  • Do not fall victim to a shopping-craze


Events like Black Friday or Cyber Monday can be tricky to navigate both for people with actual hoarding disorder and people with similar tendencies. We have more or less been trained to always appreciate a good bargain. If you need to take part in these events, make sure not to buy anything that’s not on your list.

Be more thoughtful with your consumption, especially now that you are spending so much time at home. Keep in mind that a big chunk of essential workers are people who work delivery or in warehouses. The bigger the demand, the higher the risk of getting infected with the virus for these people.


  • Stay calm in the face of panic


This part of the guide to managing the urge to hoard stuff is somewhat topical. Whether they usually live a very minimalist life or not, these days, the coronavirus panic has turned almost everyone into a hoarder. You may have seen news about supermarkets in California running out of things like toilet paper. In Italy, the pasta shelves were empty. While we should all be cautious, there really is no reason to panic and stock your house with perishables and non-perishables to stumble over for months.


  • Set small but specific goals


The final way of managing the urge to hoard stuff is to be specific about what you want to do. If you want to reduce shopping, for example, stop yourself from buying online. Going to the shops requires more effort and time so you’ll do it less often and think more about what you are getting. If you want to de-clutter, start with a small part of your home and really go to town on it. Bit by bit is the key to the science of change.

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